When you are dealing with a narcissist or a toxic ex-partner, parenting your child together can be extremely difficult.
In most cases, these types of individuals are more focused on creating conflict than actually parenting their child.
While you can’t control what they do or deny them access to your child, there are ways you can create a more harmonious situation.
This is called parallel parenting and it’s the best thing you can do for your child and your situation!
What is Parallel Parenting?
When two parents can’t parent together, it’s time to throw the idea of co-parenting out the window.
Instead, you can parallel parent!
Parallel parenting means that you both parent your child while keeping your lives completely separate. It involves things like limiting communication to only talking about the child and worrying about your own parenting skills.
It can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially when you want to do what is best for your child.
To help you sort out parallel parenting, here are some valuable tips:
Parallel Parenting Tips
1. Limit Communication Whenever Possible
When you parent with an ex, you have to talk at some point. Many court orders will state that you are responsible for sharing information about your child with their other parent.
You also have to communicate in order to facilitate parenting time and things like pick-ups and drop-offs.
However, when your ex is difficult, this can be stressful!
This is why you should limit your communication whenever possible. Don’t share details with your ex about your personal life.
Instead, stick to talking only about your child.
To further eliminate conflict, limit communication to written forms such as emails and texts.
Not only does this provide you with evidence should you have to go to court, but it also holds your ex accountable for what they say – this is helpful when it comes to arguments and misunderstandings.
2. Communicate in a Business-Like Way
When you do communicate with your ex, maintain a business-like tone.
This means avoiding getting emotional during conversations. Toxic and narcissistic people often say and do things simply to cause an argument.
If you approach communication in a business-like manner, you avoid the risk of getting pulled into an argument.
Plus, again, if things go to court, you appear as the calm and reasonable one.
Stick to what you have to say and keep your responses short.
3. Use a Parenting App
If you are having a hard time communicating with your ex in regard to your child, there are parenting apps out there that will help keep conversations organized and controlled.
Here are some of the best parallel parenting apps you can use:
- WeParent: WeParent was developed by a psychologist to help you manage appointments, custody, documents, schedules, and message in a stress-free way that eliminates conflict. It’s free for 14 days and costs either $9.99 per month or $199 for lifetime use.
- Cozi: Cozi isn’t specifically a parallel parenting app, but it has a simple design that helps to facilitate conflict-free communication. You can set up a shared calendar, create to-do lists, and share photos. The basic version is free and can be downloaded on Android and iOS.
- OurFamilyWizard: Perhaps one of the best parallel parenting apps, OurFamilyWizard was created by a divorced couple to make communication between parents harmonious. Each parent gets their own account and can add others to it, such as therapists and grandparents. This app costs $99 per year.
- CoParently: CoParently is a digital communication tool that makes it easy for parents to organize schedules, expenses, communication, and other important information. You can also add your kids to the account, which is awesome if you have teenagers. It costs $99 per year or $9.99 per month, and you can try it for free for 30 days.
4. Don’t Get Drawn Into Conflict
Even if you are trying to limit your communication and respond in a business-like manner, your ex may still draw you into a conflict.
They may use your child against you, telling them lies about you or using them to get information.
While it’s important to establish boundaries and stand your ground, getting drawn into an argument will only feed your ex’s need for conflict and attention.
Practicing things like mindfulness and journaling can help you keep control of your emotions in a healthy way and avoid getting pulled into a conflict.
5. Keep Your Side of the Road Clean
While you may not agree with your ex’s parenting style, there is not much you can do about it (unless your child is in danger).
The best you can do is focus on your own parenting skills and provide your child with love, support, and consistency.
Never bad mouth your ex, and resist the temptation to defend yourself to your child. Instead, show them who you really are through your actions.
Eventually, your child will come to learn which parent truly cares for them.
6. Create a Parallel Parenting Plan
The best way to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible between you and your ex is to create a parallel parenting plan.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – it just needs to outline important information like parenting time schedules, who transports your kid, who gets them on certain holidays, etc.
This is not a legal document, and you don’t have to sit down with your ex to come to an agreement. Simply verify this information through text or email and write it down, so you know what’s going on.
If your ex tries to make changes to the plan without discussing anything with you, you have written proof to hold them accountable.
7. Get a Court Order if You Have To
Ultimately, it may be impossible to craft any sort of agreement with your ex.
In this case, it may be necessary to take the issue to court and get a court order. This document is legal, and both parents are expected to follow it – not doing so can lead to consequences (and, in extreme cases, jail time).
Just keep in mind that if you do get a court order, you may not get everything you want. The lawyers and judge will determine the best plan for your child, despite how you and your ex feel about each other.
Typically, when you first get a court order, it will start with whatever access your ex currently has and work up from there.
Unless something major happens, the courts usually don’t claw back on what is already given. So, if your ex has your child every other weekend, don’t expect to have that amount of time reduced.
8. Take Care of Yourself
Parenting with a difficult ex can be stressful and mentally exhausting!
In order to be the best parent you can be for your child, you have to take care of yourself.
This all starts with controlling your emotions when you communicate with your ex to avoid stress, but you also have to address your feelings as well.
Take some time to focus on your self-care, and eventually, you will be able to handle your ex without feeling like you’re losing your mind.
Parallel Parenting Tips That Work!
If your ex is difficult to parent with, you may feel like there’s not much you can do.
Following these tips will show you that you can take control of the situation and create the best environment for your child to grow up in.